More poetry for Mindfulness – Horses at Midnight without a Moon – by Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert

In the next few weeks we are migrating this blog over to our new website, so we have kept posts to a minimum. But as we head into our summer breaks  we are looking forward to taking time out, relaxing and working to ensure our energy levels are topped up for our autumn schedule.

To that end we thought we should address some of the issues we are facing at the moment, as human beings in a world that seems to present us with a new challenge, a new doubt or anxiety each day. David J Beauman, who blogs at the terrific The Dad Poet, posted a poem last week to offer some solace in these difficult times and we agree with him, this one is a poem to encourage mindfulness. We have written on the subject and posted poems previously and many people have enjoyed the opportunity to find words that support them after they have taken the first steps to mindfulness Take a breath, learn to be at peace with the world and enjoy those things immediately around you. It isn’t easy and it requires dedicated practice, something many of us find difficult in a world where the expectation is increasingly immediate gratification and instant fixes. But there is beauty in the smallest things and the most unlikely situations.

David J Beauman reads the poem here, with the full text available HERE and below :

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

From Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert. Copyright © 2012

To find out more about mindfulness at The Terrace, see our website HERE 

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More poetry for mindfulness: Rainy days..

14300922917_ef36d68a0b_mThe weather in Britain in the past two months has been extraordinary. Talk of climate change was once more to the fore as we waited in vain for the crisp, cold days of winter. Instead of a white Christmas we had the warmest December on record, record rainfall and the consequent horrors of flooding, and now January is throwing everything at us.

Winter is often a time for reflection, but it can be a time when the black dog of depression and deep sadness comes over us. Relationships are vulnerable, the world seems drab after the light and sparkle of the festive season and spring can feel a long way off.

We are great advocates of mindfulness here at The Terrace, and it is at times like this that the practice of being mindful can come into its own. As we are paying attention to the present moment, meditating on our environment, and focusing on our breathing, we are more aware of our feelings, and can let painful and frustrating thoughts go with greater ease. Emptying our minds is difficult, but as Wendell Berry (a great exponent of poetry appropriate for mindfulness practice) maintains in this poem, it is only as we let things go, and cease to be distracted by indecision, that our mind becomes a space in which we can appreciate the ‘clear days’…

The Clear Days by Wendell Berry

The dogs of indecision
Cross and cross the field of vision.
A cloud, a buzzing fly
Distract the lover’s eye.
Until the heart has found
Its native piece of ground
The day withholds its light,
The eye must stray unlit.
The ground’s the body’s bride,
Who will not be denied.
Not until all is given
Comes the thought of heaven.
When the mind’s an empty room
The clear days come.

Do you have any poetry that helps still your mind and enables you to focus? We would love to hear your ideas.

Miranda Bevis, our Mindfulness expert, is offering new 8 week courses this month. 
Starting Tuesday January 26th 6.30- 8.45pm
Starting Wednesday January 27th 9.15- 11.30am

Optional half day for both courses: Sunday 6th March

Contact us at post@the-terrace.co.uk or on 01823 338968 for more details

Image courtesy of Phillippe Gillotte on Flickr Creative Commons

On letting go, and being here…

download“If you want to fly on the sky, you need to leave the earth. If you want to move forward, you need to let go the past that drags you down.”
― Amit Ray, World Peace: The Voice of a Mountain Bird

Today we have been thinking about letting go – of people who can no longer be in our lives, of pain and hurt that can disempower you, of a dream that can’t be fulfilled or any of the myriad things that prove to be temporary in our lives, however much we wanted them with us always.

‘Letting go’ is an idea that many find difficult to understand. The idea that clinging on to things until the bitter end as a mark of strength is ingrained in many of is. We are told,’don’t give up, don’t give in’ – how can we square that with letting go? Well often the only way to move forward or come to terms with what is past is to forgive others, forgive yourself and open your mind to all the new opportunities that might present themselves. Painful, yes very. Honest, yes, always.

Here at The Terrace we love to find a poem that seems to express a thought we are grappling with. This one, by Steven Hickman, is also a poem for mindfulness. Just breathe and be in that moment. Like the hippo, half close your eyes and sit, Seeing all, both guilt and glory/Only noting.

The Hippo
By Steven Hickman

The hippo floats in swamp serene,
some emerged, but most unseen.

Seeing all and only blinking,
Who knows what this beast is thinking.

Gliding, and of judgment clear,
Letting go and being here.

Seeing all, both guilt and glory,
Only noting. But that’s MY story.

I sit here hippo-like and breathe,
While inside I storm and seethe.

Would that I were half equanimous
As that placid hippopotamus.

Don’t let your past control you. See it all, accept it for what it is and in doing so work to set yourself free.

“I eventually came to understand that in harboring the anger, the bitterness and resentment towards those that had hurt me, I was giving the reins of control over to them. Forgiving was not about accepting their words and deeds. Forgiving was about letting go and moving on with my life. In doing so, I had finally set myself free.
― Isabel Lopez, Isabel’s Hand-Me-Down Dreams

Mindfulness in autumn – and a poem by May Sarton

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Autumn in Orton (c) Suzie Grogan

We have written recently about how autumn can be seriously good for your soul, and indeed it can. However, for many it is a melancholy time, when thoughts of loss, or of letting go are to the fore. Some of the words we associate with autumn can feel sombre and muted – ‘fall’, ‘decay’, ‘mists’  – and tones are ‘muted’.

But today, as we start work on our autumn programme and gear ourselves up for our latest mindfulness courses, we wanted to use images of autumn as a focus and see this time of year as an opportunity to celebrate and treasure what has been and then let it go. There are ‘autumn words’ that are lively and full of joy – the ‘boisterous’ winds, ‘warmth’ of first fires and ‘blaze’ of autumn oranges – and as the poet John Keats said in his ode to the season – ‘Where are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they? /Think not of them, thou hast thy music too…..

But letting go can be difficult, and takes practice. You have to learn to take responsibility, forgive and cease blaming others. And you have to live in the present moment, rather than filling your brain with concerns about the past.

We often like to choose a poem for mndfulness on ‘let’s talk!’ and today we have found a wonderful ‘Autumn Sonnet’ by May Sarton, a prolific American writer who died in 1995. She was known for her honest, open approach to her writing and her thoughtful expressions of what it means to be human.

If I can let you go as trees let go
Their leaves, so casually, one by one;
If I can come to know what they do know,
That fall is the release, the consummation,
Then fear of time and the uncertain fruit
Would not distemper the great lucid skies
This strangest autumn, mellow and acute.
If I can take the dark with open eyes
And call it seasonal, not harsh or strange
(For love itself may need a time of sleep),
And, treelike, stand unmoved before the change,
Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep,
The strong root still alive under the snow,
Love will endure – if I can let you go.

May Sarton

‘If I can let you go as trees let go….’ what a marvellous analogy, with the recognition that autumn can be a time of recharge and the storing up of energy for new bursts of energy in the future.

Do you like autumn, or find it a time of year that prompts feelings of sorrow and loss? We would love to  know what you think.

Mindfulness courses taken by our specialist, Miranda Bevis begin on 1st October 2015. See The Terrace website for full details. 

Don’t leave it too late to live in the moment: Rooting our lives in the present

mindfulness-meditation-reduces-loneliness-older-adults-study-1343684974Have you noticed how quickly 2015 seems to be flying away from us? Someone mentioned it is just 19 Fridays until Christmas – which sounds terrifying, bearing in mind we hardly seem to have taken the lights down from the last one. There is an interesting article doing the rounds online called ‘How did it get so late so soon?‘, which examines the 21st century perception of time, and why it seems to pass more quickly now than even a couple of decades ago. It seems to be something to do with our need to multi-task simply to stay on top of all the demands made on us in the 21st century. It also offers a reason for the seeming increase in the speed of time passing as we grow older:

“There’s a suggestion that our perception of time may be in proportion to the length of our lifespan. Known as the “proportional theory”, this idea posits that as we age, our sense of “present” time begins to feel relatively short in comparison to our entire lifespan.”

So we were interested to read this poem, written by someone reaching the end of their life, and looking back over what they might change if they had the chance to do it all again. It seems to be an appreciation of making the most of every second, rather than letting chances slip by, lost into time we never get back.

If I Had My Life to Live Over
By Nadine Stair (age 85)
from Condensed Chicken Soup for the Soul
Copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Patty Hansen

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d
have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I’d have more of them. In fact,
I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments.

One after another, instead of living so many
years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.

If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

As we wind down for the summer, taking time to recharge, perhaps we should reflect on this poem, and make the most of every minute. They pass so quickly….

More poetry for mindfulness – Beannacht by John O’Donohue

mindful-big-new-newOn this blog we have often highlighted the importance of mindfulness as a means to really engage with the world around us and to live in the moment – this moment. Mindfulness is becoming ever more ‘mainstream’ and it now regularly appears in the media, becoming something of a new ‘buzzword’ to support our mental health (as other terms, such as CBT have in the past). Here at The Terrace we have always recognised that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to our emotional wellbeing. Mindfulness is a practice that many find beneficial, but that doesn’t mean it is a panacea for all the ills in society. It requires practice and discipline, and for many of us with busy lives it can seem difficult to take the necessary time and space to really benefit.

But sometimes we can simply be in the moment, for  – literally- a few moments. Hearing a familiar piece of music, the smell of new cut grass, or bread in the oven, looking at a fabulous view; all these offer us the time to catch our breath and become as one with ourselves and the world.

John O'Donohue

John O’Donohue

Previously we have offered poetry by Wendell Berry, Pablo Neruda, William Stafford, John Keats and Mary Oliver as a way to reflect for a moment on what makes us happy and what is really important in the lives we lead. Today, we highlight the work of Irish poet John O’Donohue. Also a philosopher, priest, environmental activist and proponent of Celtic spirituality, he died, at just 52, in 2008. Some words of his particularly struck us:

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

This is surely a thought that should be with us at the start of every day?

The following poem by O’Donohue is indeed a blessing and at times of stress and anxiety offers an opportunity to meditate and calm the mind. We would love to know what you think, and how the words affect you….

Beannacht
(Gaelic for “Blessing”)

by John O’Donohue

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

And when the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

Miranda Bevis is offering more mindfulness courses at The Terrace in the autumn. See our website for more details.

On the attraction of the inspirational quote…..

Here at The TIt is the chiefest point of happiness,errace we have recently been experimenting with creating images alongside some of our favourite quotations. This is not only an interesting creative experience, but apparently, when trying to get noticed on social media, an image grabs the attention more effectively than a simple text update. In our fast paced world it is all about the visuals; a shame perhaps but looking at a peaceful, meditative image can be a calming start to a morning so we thought it was worth a try, especially as we have recently taken the plunge into Pinterest, where the image is everything.

Inspirational quotes abound on social media. Some are sickly sweet, some inappropriate or distinctly lacking in artistic impact. Others are genuinely eyecatching, heartstopping and with the ability to stay with you all day. But you can be overloaded with them if you are not careful.

Anyway, we thought our regular blog readers might like to see some of our most recent creations, and we would love to know what you think. Do you find inspirational quotes on social media a positive way to stop for a moment and meditate on the message? Do they help you to be mindful? To be still for a moment? Or are they simply fillers on your news feed? Do get in touch!

And the darkness shall be the lightOne should take good care All men's miseries derive from not being Remember, when life's path is steep, to There is enormous happiness to be found Though my soul may set in darkness, it When you sit, let it be.When you walk,